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Visas and Immigration Law

All persons, other than those in transit and citizens of certain countries, are required to obtain a visa in order to enter Thailand. Foreign nationals who intend to remain in Thailand to work or conduct business must comply with visa requirements in addition to obtaining a work permit.

A. Visa Categories
The Immigration Act of 1979 as amended in 1980 establishes the following visa categories:

  • Tourist
  • Visitor transit
  • Immigrant
  • Non-quota immigrant
  • Non-immigrant

Nationals of most countries will, without applying for a visa from a Thai embassy or consulate in advance, be given a 30 day-visa, except for those who are eligible for 90 day-visas. Nationals of some countries who are entitled to the 30 day-visa may be requested by the immigration officials to produce an onward ticket to establish that they will leave the Kingdom within 30 days.

= Tourist:
Tourist visas are initially valid for 60 days and are renewable at the discretion of the Immigration Department. Renewals are normally granted for periods of up to 30 days at a time.
= Visitor Transit:
Aliens who have obtained a transit visa from a Thai embassy or consulate will be granted a 30-day stay in the Kingdom. Extensions of stay are normally granted for periods of 7-10 days.
Note: Transit, visitor transit and tourist visa holders are not authorized to work in Thailand.

= Non-quota immigrant:
This category includes, inter alia, former residents who have lost their resident status but who have reapplied to resume their residency and who have been able to demonstrate a convincing reason to support the granting of this type of visa.

Members of the diplomatic or consular corps, aliens coming to perform their duties in Thailand with the approval of the Thai government, aliens performing their duties in Thailand under an agreement between the Thai government and a foreign government, heads of international organizations or agencies operating in Thailand, and dependents of all the aforementioned persons, including private servants of members of the diplomatic corps, are exempted by the Act from the normal visa requirements.

B. Non-Immigrant Visa
Aliens seeking a prolonged stay, or those coming to work in Thailand, should obtain non-immigrant visas for all family members prior to entering the Kingdom. There are several categories of Non-Immigrant visas which include, among others, business visa category (B); dependent visa category (O); investment subject to the provision of the laws on investment promotion (BOI IB); diplomatic and consular visa category (D); performance of duties with the mass media (M); performance of skilled or expert work (EX); investment (with concurrence of ministries and departments concerned)-(capital investment IM); study or observation (ED). Advantages of a Non-Immigrant visa include:

  • Entitlement of the holder to apply for a multiple re-entry visa to Thailand from the Immigration Division in Bangkok
  • Subject to the regulations of the Immigration Authorities, entitlement of the holder to apply for permanent residence in Thailand
  • Eligibility for issuance of a Work Permit to the holder
  • Eligibility for temporary visa renewal while processing issuance of a long- term annual visa.

Aliens are advised to strictly adhere to the rules governing each visa category. They should report any changes of address or status to local police within 24 hours.

In addition,foreigners residing in Thailand for more than 90 consecutive days are required to register their address with the Immigration Bureau every 90 days. This requirement applies to all foreigners, including holders of work permits and long-term visas. Failure to do so can result in substantial penalties. Transit, Visitor Transit, Tourist and Non-Immigrant Visas are issued only for the following purposes and duration:

  • Diplomats or consular missions (duration as necessary)
  • Official missions (duration as necessary)
  • Tourism (90 days)
  • Sports (30 days)
  • Business purposes (one year)
  • An investment which has received authorization from the appropriate government authorities (two years)
  • Investment or other business in connection with investment under the Investment Promotion Act (as determined by the Board of Investment)
  • Transit (30 days)
  • The controller or crew of a conveyance entering a port or other locality in the Kingdom (30 days)
  • Work as a skilled laborer or specialist (one year).

In response to feedback from investors, the Board of Investment coordinated the establishment of a One-Stop Service center for Visas and Work Permits, Through joint cooperation with the Immigration Bureau and the Ministry of labor, the center can process applications or renewals of visas and work permits within three hours, upon receipt of proper and complete documentation.

In addition, the center handles other transactions, including the issuance of multiple reentry stamps, changes in class of visa (to non-immigrant from tourist or transit), and payment of fines.

The One-Stop Service Center is located at 207 Rachadapisek Road, 3rd Floor, Bangkok, and they may be reached by phone at (66) (2) 693-9333-9.

Work permits, which are valid for the period of the visa, have to be renewed every year. When an individual applies for a renewal of visa, he or she has to show that taxes for the previous year have been paid. Foreigners may also apply for permanent residence permits for Thailand under certain conditions, such as investment in a business, or a condominium. Application can either be made to the Board of Investment or the Immigration Department.

Sat, 29 March, 2003

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